Saturday, April 15, 2006

200 years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan

The recent news about Abdul Rahman the Afghan Christian who was sentenced to death in Kabul for apostasy from Islam has prompted me to do something which I've been meaning to do for some time.

There is an almost forgotten story about a remarkable series of events that began about two hundred years ago in Kabul, relating to the coming to faith in Jesus Christ of one of two friends who were traveling through Asia after their pilgrimage to Mecca.

The story begins like this:
SABAT was the son of Ibrahim Sabat, of a noble family in Arabia, who trace their pedigree to Mahomed. Abdallah was his intimate friend., and also a young man of good family. They agreed to travel together, and to visit foreign countries. Both were zealous Mahomedans. Accordingly, after paying their adorations at the tomb of their prophet, they left Arabia, travelled through Persia, and thence to Cabul. Abdallah was appointed to an office of state under the king of Cabul, and Sabat leaving him there, proceeded on a tour through Tartary.

While Abdallah remained at Cabul, he was converted to the Christian faith by the perusal of a Bible belonging to an Armenian Christian, then residing at Cabul; for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. In Mahomedan countries it is death for a man of rank to become a Christian. Abdallah endeavoured, for a time, to conceal his conversion; but finding it no longer possible, he determined to flee to some of the Christian Churches near the Caspian Sea. He, accordingly, left Cabul in disguise, and had gained the great city of Bochara in Tartary, when he was met in the streets of that city by his friend Sabat, who immediately recognized him. Sabat had heard of his conversion and flight, and was filled .with indignation at his conduct. Abdallah knew his danger, and threw himself at the feet of Sabat. He confessed that he was a Christian, and implored him by the sacred tie of their former friendship to let him escape with his life. “But, sir,” said Sabat, when relating the story, “I had no pity. I caused my servants to seize him, and I delivered him up to Morad Shah, king of Bochara. He was sentenced to die, and a herald went through the city announcing the time of his execution. An immense multitude attended, and the chief men of the city. I also went and stood near to Abdallah. He was offered his life if he would abjure Christ, the executioner standing by him with his sword in his hand. ‘No,’ said he, ‘I cannot abjure Christ.’ Then one of his hands was cut off at the wrist. He stood firm, his arm hanging by his side, but with little motion. A physician, by desire of the king, offered to heal the wound if he would recant. He made no answer but looked stedfastly towards heaven, like Stephen the first martyr, his eyes streaming with tears. He did not look with anger towards me. He looked at me, but it was benignly, and with the countenance of forgiveness. His other hand was then cut off. “But, sir,” said Sabat in his imperfect English, “he never changed, - he never changed. And when he bowed his head to receive the stroke, all Bochara seemed to say, What new thing is this?”
For the full story of what happened afterwards in Sabat's own life, go to the article Sabat the Arabian, by Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-43) now posted on my website.

For news about how you can help Christian believers facing pressure from Islamic societies and governments, please visit the website of the Barnabas Fund.

Meanwhile also, please continue to pray for those Afghan Christians today who unlike Abdul Rahman are not able to find asylum in a foreign country like Italy, but who face the continued danger of being persecuted inside Afghanistan, away from the eyes of reporters and the world media.

Note: The original spellings have been retained in the article by M'Cheyne. Bochara in this story is modern day Bukhara in Uzbekistan.